About Green Hot Water Heaters

What to look for in an energy-efficient water heater

Heating water can account for a large portion of the energy consumption in any home, so it’s not uncommon to wonder if your hot water heater is really as efficient as it can possibly be. Saving on water-heating costs is good for the environment and good for the checkbook. So what kinds of water heaters are out there, and what does each kind offer?

Gas and electric hot water heaters

The two most common types of water heaters are gas and electric. Gas-fueled hot water heaters cost more upfront than electric heaters, but they can pay for themselves in as little as a year. According to Consumer Reports, the operating costs of a gas hot water heater tend to be about half as much as an electric one.

Tankless hot water heaters

As the name might suggest, tankless hot water heaters do not have a reservoir tank. Instead, they heat the water as it enters the plumbing system on an as-needed basis.

Larry and Suzanne Weingarten, authors of The Water Heater Workbook—A Hands-On Guide to Water Heaters, explain that traditional water heaters use tons of energy constantly keeping their tank of water hot, even when there is no demand for hot water. However, consumers must take into consideration that tankless heaters cost two or three times more than traditional water heaters, and they may require an increase in the gas line or electric power supply, since water must be heated within seconds.

Solar hot water systems

With this type of system, cool water from a house or business is pumped onto a roof or deck where solar energy is being collected via large panels. The water is heated by these panels, and then travels back into the building. The California Energy Commission reports that this kind of system can save bill payers up to $500 a year.

Consider the addition of a tempering tank

A tempering tank is an intermediate tank located in a warm, sunny room like an attic or a sunroom, where water is allowed to warm to room temperature before proceeding into the actual hot water heater. The tempering tank is uninsulated, so that water may quickly adjust to the temperature of the warm room. By raising the temperature of the water before it even enters the heater, it reduces the amount of work to be done by the hot water heater itself, thus reducing costs.

Consider adding insulation

If you have a hot water heater with a tank, take note of its insulation rating. Insulation ratings range from R-6 to R-24. If you have a poorly insulated hot water heater, you may consider wrapping it with an insulating blanket to increase the energy efficiency of the unit.


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